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HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM

"...when we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that these rights have been granted
by God; they have not been granted by any king or by any legislative assembly. The rights
granted by the kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same manner in
which they are conferred. The same is the case with the rights accepted and recognized by the
dictators. They can confer them when they please and withdraw them when they wish; and they
can openly violate them when they like. But since in Islam human rights have been conferred by
God, no legislative assembly in the world, or any government on earth has the right or authority
to make any amendment or change in the rights conferred by God. No one has the right to
abrogate them or withdraw them. Nor are they the basic human rights which are conferred on
paper for the sake of show and exhibition and denied in actual life when the show is over. Nor
are they like philosophical concepts which have no sanctions behind them."

CHAPTER ONE
HUMAN RIGHTS, THE WEST AND ISLAM
Before I discuss the human rights in Islam I would like to explain
a few points about two major approaches to the question of
human rights: the Western and Islamic. This will enable us to
study the issue in its proper perspective and avoid some of the confusion which
normally befogs such a discussion.

The Western Approach:

The people in the West have the habit of attributing every good
thing to themselves and try to prove that it is because of them that the
world got this blessing, otherwise the world was steeped in ignorance
and completely unaware of all these benefits. Now let us look at the
question of human rights. It is very loudly and vociferously claimed
that the world got the concept of basic human rights from the Magna
Carta of Britain; though the Magna Carta itself came into existence six
hundred years after the advent of Islam. But the truth of the matter is
that until the seventeenth century no one even knew that the Magna
Carta contained the principles of Trial by Jury; Habeas Corpus, and
the Control of Parliament on the Right of Taxation. If the people who
had drafted the Magna Carta were living today they would have been
greatly surprised if they were told that their document also contained
all these ideals and principles. They had no such intention, nor were
they conscious of all these concepts which are now being attributed to
them.
As far as my knowledge goes the Westerners had no concept of
human rights and civic rights before the seventeenth century. Even
after the seventeenth century the philosophers and the thinkers on
jurisprudence though presented these ideas, the practical proof and
demonstration of these concepts can only be found at the end of the
eighteenth century in the proclamations and constitutions of America
and France. After this there appeared a reference to the basic human
rights in the constitutions of different countries. But more often the
rights which were given on paper were not actually given to the people
in real life.

In the middle of the present century, the United Nations,


which can now be more aptly and truly described as the Divided
Nations, made a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and passed a
resolution against genocide and framed regulations to check it. But as
you all know there is not a single resolution or regulation of the
United Nations which can be enforced. They are just an expression of
a pious hope. They have no sanctions behind them, no force, physical
or moral to enforce them. Despite all the high-sounding ambitious
resolutions of the United Nations, human rights have been violated
and trampled upon at different places, and the United Nations has
been a helpless spectator. She is not in a position to exercise an
effective check on the violation of human rights. Even the heinous
crime of genocide is being perpetrated despite all proclamations of the
United Nations. Right in the neighbouring country of Pakistan,
genocide of the Muslims has been taking place for the last twenty-
eight years, but the United Nations does not have the power and
strength to take any steps against India. No action has even been taken
against any country guilty of this most serious and revolting crime.

The Islamic Approach:

The second point which I would like to clarify at the very outset
is that when we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that
these rights have been granted by God; they have not been granted by
any king or by any legislative assembly. The rights granted by the
kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same
manner in which they are conferred. The same is the case with the
rights accepted and recognized by the dictators. They can confer them
when they please and withdraw them when they wish; and they can
openly violate them when they like. But since in Islam human rights
have been conferred by God, no legislative assembly in the world, or
any government on earth has the right or authority to make any
amendment or change in the rights conferred by God. No one has the
right to abrogate them or withdraw them. Nor are they the basic
human rights which are conferred on paper for the sake of show and
exhibition and denied in actual life when the show is over. Nor are
they like philosophical concepts which have no sanctions behind
them.

The charter and the proclamations and the resolutions of the


United Nations cannot be compared with the rights sanctioned by
God; because the former is not applicable to anybody while the latter
is applicable to every believer. They are a part and parcel of the
Islamic Faith. Every Muslim or administrators who claim themselves
to be Muslims will have to accept, recognize and enforce them. If they
fail to enforce them, and start denying the rights that have been
guaranteed by God or make amendments and changes in them, or
practically violate them while paying lip-service to them, the verdict
of the Holy Quran for such governments is clear and unequivocal:

"Those who do not judge by what God has sent down are the disbelievers."
(Kafirun). 5:44

The following verse also proclaims: "They are the wrong-doers (zalimun)"
(5:45),
while a third verse in the same chapter says: "They are the evil-livers (fasiqun)"
(5:47).

In other words this means that if the temporal authorities regard their
own words and decisions to be right and those given by God as wrong
they are disbelievers. If on the other hand they regard God's commands
as right but wittingly reject them and enforce their own decisions
against God's, then they are the mischief-makers and the wrong-doers.
Fasiq, the law-breaker,is the one who disregards the bond of allegiance,
and zalim is he who works against the truth. Thus all those temporal
authorities who claim to be Muslims and yet violate the rights
sanctioned by God belong to one of these two categories, either they
are the disbelievers or are the wrong-doers and mischief-makers.
The rights which have been sanctioned by God are permanent,
perpetual and eternal. They are not subject to any
alterations or modifications, and there is no scope for any change or
abrogation.

CHAPTER TWO
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS
The first thing that we find in Islam in this connection is that it
lays down some rights for man as a human being. In other words it
means that every man whether he belongs to this country or that,
whether he is a believer or unbeliever, whether he lives in some forest
or is found in some desert, whatever be the case, he has some basic
human rights simply because he is a human being, which should be
recognized by every Muslim. In fact it will be his duty to fulfil these
obligations.

1. The Right to Life


The first and the foremost basic right is the right to live and
respect human life. The Holy Quran lays down:

“Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like) man


slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed
all mankind ... (5:32)”

As far as the question of taking life in retaliation for murder or the


question of punishment for spreading corruption on this earth is concerned, it
can be decided only by a proper and competent court of
law. If there is any war with any nation or country, it can be decided
only by a properly established government. In any case, no human
being has any right by himself to take human life in retaliation or for
causing mischief on this earth. Therefore it is incumbent on every
human being that under no circumstances should he be guilty of
taking a human life. If anyone has murdered a human being, it is as if
he has slain the entire human race. These instructions have been
repeated in the Holy Quran in another place saying:

“Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due
process of law ... (6:151)”

Here also homicide has been distinguished from destruction of


life carried out in pursuit of justice. Only a proper and competent
court will be able to decide whether or not an individual has forfeited
his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other
human beings. The Prophet, may God's blessings be on him, has
declared homicide as the greatest sin only next to polytheism. The
Tradition of the Prophet reads: "The greatest sins are to associate
something with God and to kill human beings." In all these verses of
the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet the word 'soul' (nafs) has
been used in general terms without any distinction or particularization
which might have lent itself to the elucidation that the persons belong-
ing to one's nation, the citizens of one's country, the people of a
particular race or religion should not be killed. The injunction applies
to all human beings and the destruction of human life in itself has
been prohibited.

'The Right to Life' has been given to man only by Islam. You
will observe that the people who talk about human rights if they have
ever mentioned them in their Constitutions or Declarations, then it is
clearly implied in them that these rights are applicable only to their
citizens or they have been framed for the white race alone. This can
clearly be gleaned by the fact that human beings were hunted down
like animals in Australia and the land was cleared of the aborigines for
the white man. Similarly the aboriginal population of America was
systematically destroyed and the Red Indians who somehow survived
this genocide were confined to specified areas called Reservations.
They also penetrated into Africa and hunted down human beings like
wild animals. All these instances go to prove that they have no respect
for human life as such and if they have, it is only on the basis of their
nationality, colour or race. Contrary to this, Islam recognizes this right
for all human beings. If a man belongs to a primitive or savage tribe,
even then Islam regards him as a human being.

2. The Right to the Safety of Life


Immediately after the verse of the Holy Quran which has been
mentioned in connection with the right to life, God has said: "And
whoever saves a life it is as though he had saved the lives of all
mankind" (5:32). There can be several forms of saving man from
death. A man may be ill or wounded, irrespective of his nationality,
race or colour. If you know that he is in need of your help, then it
is your duty that you should arrange for his treatment for disease or
wound. If he is dying of starvation, then it is your duty to feed him so
that he can ward off death. If he is drowning or his life is at stake,
then it is your duty to save him. You will be surprised to hear that the
Talmud, the religious book of the Jews, contains a verse of similar
nature, but records it in altogether different form. It says: "Whoever
destroyed a life of the Israelite, in the eyes of the Scripture, it is as
if he destroyed the whole world. And whoever protected and saved one
life of the Israelite, in the light of the Scripture, it is as if he saved
the whole world." Talmud also contains the view that if a non-Israelite is
drowning and you tried to save him then you are a sinner. Can it be
given a name other than racialism? We regard it as our duty to save
every human life, because it is thus that we have been enjoined in the
Holy Quran. On the other hand, if they regard it necessary to save
the life of a human being at all, it should be the life of an Israelite. As
far as other people are concerned, according to this view, they do not
seem to be human enough to deserve protection of their persons. In
their literature the concept of 'Goyim' for which the English word
'Gentile' and the Arabic word ummi (illiterate) is used, is that they
enjoy no human rights; human rights are reserved only for the children
of Israel. The Quran has mentioned this belief of the Israelites and
quotes the Jews saying: "There is no blame on us (for anything we
may do) with regard to the unlettered folk (i.e. the ummi)" (3:75).

3. Respect for the Chastity of Women


The third important thing that we find in the Charter of Human
Rights granted by Islam is that a woman's chastity has to be respected
and protected under all circumstances, whether she belongs to our
own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether we find her in the
wild forest or in a conquered city; whether she is our co-religionist or
belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all. A Muslim
cannot outrage her under any circumstances. All promiscuous relation-
ship has been forbidden to him, irrespective of the status or position
of the woman, whether the woman is a willing or an unwilling partner
to the act. The words of the Holy Quran in this respect are: "Do not
approach (the bounds of) adultery" (17:32). Heavy punishment has
been prescribed for this crime, and the order has not been qualified by
any conditions. Since the violation of chastity of a woman is
forbidden in Islam, a Muslim who perpetrates this crime cannot escape
punishment whether he receives it in this world or in the Hereafter.
This concept of sanctity of chastity and protection of women can be
found nowhere else except in Islam. The armies of the Western powers
need the daughters of their nation to satisfy their carnal appetites even
in their own countries, and if they happen to occupy another country,
the fate of its women folk can better be imagined than described. But
the history of the Muslims, apart from a few lapses of the individuals
here or there, has been free from this crime against womanhood. It has
never happened that after the conquest of a foreign country the
Muslim army has gone about raping the women of the conquered
people, or in their own country, the government has arranged to
provide prostitutes1for them. This is also a great blessing which the
human race has received through Islam.

4. The Right to a Basic Standard of Life


Speaking about the economic rights the Holy Quran enjoins upon
its followers:

“And in their wealth there is acknowledged right for the needy and
destitute. (51:19)”

The words of this injunction show that it is a categorical and un-


qualified order. Furthermore this injunction was given in Makkah
where there was no Muslim society in existence and where generally
the Muslims had to come in contact with the population of the
disbelievers. Therefore the clear meaning of this verse is that anyone
who asks for help and anyone who is suffering from deprivation has a
right in the property and wealth of the Muslims; irrespective of the
fact whether he belongs to this nation or to that nation, to this
country or to that country, to this race or to that race. If you are in
a position to help and a needy person asks you for help or if you come
to know that he is in need, then it is your duty to help him. God has
established his right over you, which you have to honour as a Muslim.
5. Individual's Right to Freedom
Islam has clearly and categorically forbidden the primitive
practice of capturing a free man, to make him a slave or to sell him
into slavery. On this point the clear and unequivocal words of the
Prophet (S) are as follows: "There are three categories of people
against whom I shall myself be a plaintiff on the Day of Judgement.
Of these three, one is he who enslaves a free man, then sells him and
eats this money" (al-Bukhari and Ibn Majjah). The words of this
Tradition of the Prophet are also general, they have not been qualified
or made applicable to a particular nation, race, country or followers
of a particular religion. The Europeans take great pride in claiming
that they abolished slavery from the world, though they had the
decency to do so only in the middle of the last century. Before this,
these Western powers had been raiding Africa on a very large scale,
capturing their free men, putting them in bondage and transporting
them to their new colonies. The treatment which they have meted
out to these unfortunate people has been worse than the treatment
given to animals. The books written by the Western people themselves
bear testimony to this fact.

The Slave Trade of Western Nations:


After the occupation of America and the West Indies, for three
hundred and fifty years, traffic in slave trade continued. The African
coasts where the black-skinned captured Africans were brought from
the interior of Africa and put on the ships sailing out from those
ports, came to be known as the Slave Coast. During only one century
(from 1680 to 1786) the total number of free people who were
captured and enslaved only for British Colonies amounts, according to
the estimate of British authors, to 20 million human beings. Over the
period of only one year (1790) we are told that 75,000 human beings
were captured and sent for slave labour in the Colonies. The ships
which were used for transporting the slaves were small and dirty.
These unfortunate Africans were thrust into the holds of these ships
like cattle right up to the top and many of them were chained to the
wooden shelves on which they could hardly move because these were
only eighteen inches apart, kept one on top of the other. They were
not provided with suitable food, and if they fell ill or were injured, no
attempt was made to provide them with medical treatment. The
Western writers themselves state that at least 20% of the total number
of people who were captured for slavery and forced labour perished
during their transportation from the African coast to America. It has
also been estimated that the total number of people who were
captured for slavery by the various European nations during the
heyday of the slave trade comes to at least one hundred million. This
is the record of the people who denounce Muslims day and night for
recognizing the institution of slavery. It is as if a criminal is holding
his finger of blame towards an innocent man.
The Position of Slavery in Islam:
Briefly I would like to tell you about the position and nature
of slavery in Islam. Islam tried to solve the problem of the slaves that
were in Arabia by encouraging the people in different ways to set
their slaves free. The Muslims were ordered that in expiation of some
of their sins they should set their slaves free. Freeing a slave by one's
own free will was declared to be an act of great merit, so much so that
it was said that every limb of the man who manumits a slave will be
protected from hell-fire in lieu of the limb of the slave freed by him.
The result of this policy was that by the time the period of the
Rightly-Guided Caliphs was reached, all the old slaves of Arabia were
liberated. The Prophet alone liberated as many as 63 slaves. The
number of slaves freed by 'Aishah was 67, 'Abbas liberated 70, 'Abd
Allah ibn 'Umar liberated one thousand, and 'Abd al-Rahman
purchased thirty thousand and set them free. Similarly other
Companions of the Prophet liberated a large number of slaves, the
details of which are given in the Traditions and books of history of
that period.

Thus the problem of the slaves of Arabia was solved in a short


period of thirty or forty years. After this the only form of slavery
which was left in Islamic society was the prisoners of war, who were
captured on the battlefield. These prisoners of war were retained by
the Muslim Government until their government agreed to receive
them back in exchange for Muslim soldiers captured by them, or
arranged the payment of ransom on their behalf. If the soldiers they
captured were not exchanged with Muslim prisoners of war, or their
people did not pay their ransom money to purchase their liberty, then
the Muslim Government used to distribute them among the soldiers of
the army which had captured them. This was a more humane and
proper way of disposing of them than retaining them like cattle in
concentration camps and taking forced labour from them and, if their
women folk were also captured, setting them aside for prostitution.
In place of such a cruel and outrageous way of disposing of the
prisoners of war, Islam preferred to spread them in the population and
thus brought them in contact with individual human beings. Over and
above, their guardians were ordered to treat them well. The result of
this humane policy was that most of the men who were captured on
foreign battlefields and brought to the Muslim countries as slaves
embraced Islam and their descendants produced great scholars, imams,
jurists, commentators, statesmen and generals of the army. So much
so that later on they became the rulers of the Muslim world. The
solution of this problem which has been proposed in the present age is
that after the cessation of hostilities the prisoners of war of the
combatant countries should be exchanged. Whereas Muslims have been
practising it from the very beginning and whenever the adversary
accepted the exchange of prisoners of war from both sides, it was
implemented without the least hesitation or delay. In modern warfare
we also find that if one government is completely routed leaving her in
no position of bargaining for the prisoners of war and the winning
party gets its prisoners easily, then experience has shown that the
prisoners of war of the vanquished army are kept in conditions which
are much worse than the conditions of slaves. Can anyone tell us what
has been the fate of the thousands of prisoners of war captured by
Russia from the defeated armies of Germany and Japan in the Second
World War? No one has given their account so far. No one knows how
many thousands of them are still alive and how many thousands of
them have perished due to the hardship of the Russian concentration
and labour camps. The forced labour which has been taken from them
is much worse than the service one can exact from slaves. Even perhaps
in the times of ancient Pharaohs of Egypt such harsh labour might not
have been exacted from the slaves in building the pyramids of Egypt, as
has been exacted from the prisoners of war in Russia in developing
Siberia and other backward areas of Russia, or working in coal and
other mines in below zero temperatures, ill-clad, ill-fed and brutally
treated by their supervisors.

6. The Right to Justice


This is a very important and valuable right which Islam has given
to man as a human being. The Holy Quran has laid down: "Do not let
your hatred of a people incite you to aggression" (5:2). "And do not
let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing
justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness" (5:8). Stressing this
point the Quran again says: "You who believe stand steadfast before God as
witness for (truth and) fairplay" (4:135). This makes the point clear
that Muslims have to be just not only with ordinary human beings but
even with their enemies. In other words, the justice to which Islam
invites her followers is not limited only to the citizens of their own
country, or the people of their own tribe, nation or race, or the
Muslim community as a whole, but it is meant for all the human beings
of the world. Muslims therefore, cannot be unjust to anyone. Their
permanent habit and character should be such that no man should ever
fear injustice at their hands, and they should treat every human being
everywhere with justice and fairness.

7. Equality of Human Beings


Islam not only recognizes absolute equality between men
irrespective of any distinction of colour, race or nationality, but makes
it an important and significant principle, a reality. The Almighty God
has laid down in the Holy Quran: "O mankind, we have created you
from a male and female." In other words all human beings are brothers
to one another. They all are the descendants from one father and one
mother. "And we set you up as nations and tribes so that you may be
able to recognize each other" (49:13). This means that the division of
human beings into nations, races, groups and tribes is for the sake of
distinction, so that people of one race or tribe may meet and be
acquainted with the people belonging to another race or tribe and
cooperate with one another. This division of the human race is neither
meant for one nation to take pride in its superiority over others nor is it
meant for one nation to treat another with contempt or disgrace, or
regard them as a mean and degraded race and usurp their rights.
"Indeed, the noblest among you before God are the most heedful of
you" (49:13). In other words the superiority of one man over another
is only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high
morals, and not on the basis of colour, race, language or nationality,
and even this superiority based on piety and pure conduct does not
justify that such people should play lord or assume airs of superiority
over other human beings. Assuming airs of superiority is in itself a
reprehensible vice which no God-fearing and pious man can ever dream
of perpetrating. Nor does the righteous have more privileged rights over
others, because this runs counter to human equality, which has been
laid down in the beginning of this verse as a general principle. From the
moral point of view, goodness and virtue is in all cases better than vice
and evil.

This has been exemplified by the Prophet in one of his sayings thus:
"No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab
have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any
superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the
white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created
from clay" (al-Bayhaqi and al-Bazzaz). In this manner Islam established
equality for the entire human race and struck at the very root of all
distinctions based on colour, race, language or nationality. According to
Islam,God has given man this right of equality as a birthright. Therefore
no man should be discriminated against on the ground of the colour of
his skin, his place of birth, the race or the nation in which he was born.
Malcolm X, the famous leader of African Negroes in America, who had
launched a bitter struggle against the white people of America in order
to win civil rights for his black compatriots, when he went to perform
the pilgrimage, and saw how the Muslims of Asia, Africa, Europe,
America and those of different races, languages and colours of skin,
were wearing one dress and were hurrying towards God's House-the
Ka'bah and offering prayers standing in one row and there was no
distinction of any kind between them, then he realized that this was the
solution to the problem of colour and race, and not what he had been
trying to seek or achieve in America so far. Today, a number of non-
Muslim thinkers, who are free from blind prejudice, openly admit that
no other religion or way of life has solved this problem with the same
degree of success with which Islam has done so.
8. The Right to Co-operate and Not to Co-operate
Islam has prescribed a general principle of paramount importance
and universal application saying: "Co-operate with one another for
virtue and heedfulness and do not co-operate with one another for the
purpose of vice and aggression" (5:2). This means that the man who
undertakes a noble and righteous work, irrespective of the fact whether
he is living at the North Pole or the South Pole, has the right to expect
support and active co-operation from the Muslims. On the contrary he
who perpetrates deeds of vice and aggression, even if he is our closest
relation or neighbour, does not have the right to win our support and
help in the name of race, country, language or nationality, nor should
he have the expectation that Muslims will co-operate with him or
support him. Nor is it permissible for Muslims to co-operate with him.
The wicked and vicious person may be our own brother, but he is not
of us, and he can have no help or support from us as long as he does not
repent and reform his ways. On the other hand the man who is doing
deeds of virtue and righteousness may have no kinship with Muslims,
but Muslims will be his companions and supporters or at least his well-
wishers.

CHAPTER THREE
RIGHTS OF CITIZENS IN AN ISLAMIC STATE
We have discussed the human rights in general. Now we would like
to take up the question of rights of the citizens in an Islamic State. As
these rights are more extensive than the general human rights which
have been described earlier, they need separate treatment.

1. The Security of Life and Property


In the address which the Prophet delivered on the occasion of the
Farewell Hajj, he said: "Your lives and properties are forbidden to one
another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection." God
Almighty has laid down in the Holy Quran: "Anyone who kills a
believer deliberately will receive as his reward (a sentence) to live in
Hell for ever. God will be angry with him and curse him, and prepare
dreadful torment for him" (4:93). The Prophet has also said about the
dhimmis (the non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim State): "One who kills
a man under covenant (i.e. a dhimmi) will not even smell the fragrance
of Paradise" (al-Bukhari and Abu Dawud). Islam prohibits homicide but
allows only one exception, that the killing is done in the due process of
law which the Quran refers to as bi al-haqq (with the truth). Therefore
a man can be killed only when the law demands it, and it is obvious
that only a court of law can decide whether the execution is being
carried out with justice or without justification. In case of war or
insurrection a just and righteous government alone, which follows the
Shari'ah or the Islamic Law, can decide whether a war is just or unjust,
whether taking of a life is justified or not; and whether a person is a
rebel or not and who can be sentenced to death as a punishment. These
weighty decisions cannot be left in the hands of a court which has
become heedless to God and is under the influence of the administra-
tion. A judiciary like this may miscarry justice. Nor can the crimes of
state be justified on the authority of the Holy Quran or Traditions
(hadith) when the state murders its citizens openly and secretly without
any hesitation or on the slightest pretext, because they are opposed to
its unjust policies and actions or criticize it for its misdeed, and also
provides protection to its hired assassins who have been guilty of the
heinous crime of murder of an innocent person resulting in the fact,
that neither the police take any action against such criminals nor can
any proof or witnesses against these criminals be produced in the courts
of law. The very existence of such a government is a crime and none of
the killings carried out by them can be called "execution for the sake of
justice" in the phraseology of the Holy Quran.

Along with security of life, Islam has with equal clarity and
definiteness conferred the right of security of ownership of property, as
mentioned earlier with reference to the address of the Farewell Hajj. On
the other hand, the Holy Quran goes so far as to declare that the taking
of people's possessions or property is completely prohibited unless they
are acquired by lawful means as permitted in the Laws of God. The
Law of God categorically declares "Do not devour one another's wealth
by false and illegal means" (2:188).

2. The Protection of Honour


The second important right is the right of the citizens to the
protection of their honour. In the address delivered on the occasion of
the Farewell Hajj, to which I have referred earlier, the Prophet did not
only prohibit the life and property of the Muslims to one another, but
also any encroachment upon their honour, respect and chastity were
forbidden to one another. The Holy Quran clearly lays down:

(a) "You who believe, do not let one (set of) people make fun of
another set.
(b) Do not defame one another.
(c) Do not insult by using nicknames.
(d) And do not backbite or speak ill of one another" (49:11-12).
This is the law of Islam for the protection of honour which is
indeed much superior to and better than the Western Law of Defama-
tion. According to the Islamic Law if it is proved that someone has
attacked the honour of another person, then irrespective of the fact
whether or not the victim is able to prove himself a respectable and
honourable person the culprit will in any case get his due punishment.
But the interesting fact about the Western Law of Defamation is that
the person who files suit for defamation has first to prove that he is a
man of honour and public esteem and during the interrogation he is
subjected to the scurrilous attacks, accusations and innuendoes of the
defence council to such an extent that he earns more disgrace than the
attack on his reputation against which he had knocked the door of the
court of law. On top of it he has also to produce such witnesses as
would testify in the court that due to the defamatory accusations of
the culprit, the accused stands disgraced in their eyes. Good Gracious!
what a subtle point of law, and what an adherence to the spirit of Law!
How can this unfair and unjust law be compared to the Divine law?
Islam declared blasphemy as a crime irrespective of the fact whether the
accused is a man of honour or not, and whether the words used for
blasphemy have actually disgraced the victim and harmed his reputation
in the eyes of the public or not. According to the Islamic Law the mere
proof of the fact that the accused said things which according to
common sense could have damaged the reputation and honour of the
plaintiff, is enough for the accused to be declared guilty of defamation.

3. The Sanctity and Security of Private Life


Islam recognizes the right of every citizen of its state that there
should be no undue interference or encroachment on the privacy of his
life. The Holy Quran has laid down the injunction: "Do not spy on
one another" (49:12). "Do not enter any houses except your own
homes unless you are sure of their occupants' consent" (24:27). The
Prophet has gone to the extent of instructing his followers that a man
should not enter even his own house suddenly or surreptitiously. He
should somehow or other inform or indicate to the dwellers of the
house that he is entering the house, so that he may not see his mother,
sister or daughter in a condition in which they would not like to be
seen, nor would he himself like to see them in that condition. Peering
into the houses of other people has also been strictly prohibited, so
much so that there is the saying of the Prophet that if a man finds
another person secretly peering into his house, and he blinds his eye or
eyes as a punishment then he cannot be called to question nor will he
be liable to prosecution. The Prophet has even prohibited people from
reading the letters of others, so much so that if a man is reading his
letter and another man casts sidelong glances at it and tries to read it,
his conduct becomes reprehensible. This is the sanctity of privacy that
Islam grants to individuals. On the other hand in the modern civilized
world we find that not only the letters of other people are read and
their correspondence censored, but even their photostat copies are
retained for future use or blackmail. Even bugging devices are secretly
fixed in the houses of the people so that one can hear and tape from a
distance the conversation taking place behind closed doors. In other
words it means that there is no such thing as privacy and to all practical
purposes the private life of an individual does not exist.

This espionage on the life of the individual cannot be justified on


moral grounds by the government saying that it is necessary to know
the secrets of the dangerous persons. Though, to all intents and
purposes, the basis of this policy is the fear and suspicion with which
modern governments look at their citizens who are intelligent and
dissatisfied with the official policies of the government. This is exactly
what Islam has called as the root cause of mischief in politics. The
injunction of the Prophet is: "When the ruler begins to search for the
causes of dissatisfaction amongst his people, he spoils them" (Abu
Dawud). The Amir Mu'awiyah has said that he himself heard the
Prophet saying: "If you try to find out the secrets of the people, then
you will definitely spoil them or at least you will bring them to the
verge of ruin." The meaning of the phrase 'spoil them' is that when
spies (C.I.D. or F.B.I.agents) are spread all around the country to find
out the affairs of men, then the people begin to look at one another with
suspicion, so much so that people are afraid of talking freely in their
houses lest some word should escape from the lips of their wives and
children which may put them in embarrassing situations. In this manner
it becomes difficult for a common citizen to speak freely, even in his
own house and society begins to suffer from a state of general distrust
and suspicion.

4. The Security of Personal Freedom


Islam has also laid down the principle that no citizen can be
imprisoned unless his guilt has been proved in an open court. To arrest
a man only on the basis of suspicion and to throw him into a prison
without proper court proceedings and without providing him a reason-
able opportunity to produce his defence is not permissible in Islam. It is
related in the hadith that once the Prophet was delivering a lecture in
the mosque, when a man rose during the lecture and said: "O Prophet
of God, for what crime have my neighbours been arrested?" The
Prophet heard the question and continued his speech. The man rose
once again and repeated the same question. The Prophet again did not
answer and continued his speech. The man rose for a third time and
repeated the same question. Then the Prophet ordered that the man's
neighbours be released. The reason why the Prophet had kept quiet
when the question was repeated twice earlier was that the police officer
was present in the mosque and if there were proper reasons for the
arrest of the neighbours of this man, he would have got up to explain
his position. Since the police officer gave no reasons for these arrests
the Prophet ordered that the arrested persons should be released. The
police officer was aware of the Islamic law and therefore he did not
get up to say: "the administration is aware of the charges against the
arrested men, but they cannot be disclosed in public. If the Prophet
would inquire about their guilt in camera I would enlighten him." If
the police officer had made such a statement, he would have been dis-
missed then and there. The fact that the police officer did not give any
reasons for the arrests in the open court was sufficient reason for the
Prophet to give immediate orders for the release of the arrested men.
The injunction of the Holy Quran is very clear on this point. "When-
ever you judge between people, you should judge with (a sense of)
justice" (4:58). And the Prophet has also been asked by God: "I have
been ordered to dispense justice between you." This was the reason
why the Caliph 'Umar said: "In Islam no one can be imprisoned except
in pursuance of justice." The words used here clearly indicate that
justice means due process of law. What has been prohibited and
condemned is that a man be arrested and imprisoned without proof of
his guilt in an open court and without providing him an opportunity
to defend himself against those charges. If the Government suspects
that a particular individual has committed a crime or he is likely to
commit an offence in the near future then they should give reasons for
their suspicion before a court of law and the culprit or the suspect
should be allowed to produce his defence in an open court, so that the
court may decide whether the suspicion against him is based on sound
grounds or not and if there is good reason for suspicion, then he should
be informed of how long he will be in preventive detention. This
decision should be taken under all circumstances in an open court, so
that the public may hear the charges brought by the government, as
well as the defence made by the accused and see that the due process of
law is being applied to him and he is not being victimized.

The correct method of dealing with such cases in Islam is


exemplified in the famous decision of the Prophet which took place
before the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet was making preparations
for the attack on Makkah, when one of his Companions, Hatib ibn Abi
Balta'ah sent a letter through a woman to the authorities in Makkah
informing them about the impending attack. The Prophet came to
know of this through a Divine inspiration. He ordered 'Ali and Zubayr:
"Go quickly on the route to Makkah, at such and such a place, you will
find a woman carrying a letter. Recover the letter from her and bring it
to me." So they went and found the woman exactly where the Prophet
had said. They recovered the letter from her and brought it to the
Prophet. This was indeed a clear case of treachery. To inform the
enemy about a secret of an army and that too at the time of a war is a
very serious offence tantamount to treachery. In fact one cannot think
of a more serious crime during war than giving out a military secret to
one's enemy. What could have been a more suitable case for a secret
hearing; a military secret had been betrayed and common sense
demanded that he should be tried in camera. But the Prophet
summoned Hatib to the open court of the Mosque of the Prophet and
in the presence of hundreds of people asked him to explain his position
with regard to his letter addressed to the leaders of Quraysh which had
been intercepted on its way. The accused said: "O God's Messenger
(may God's blessings be on you) I have not revolted against Islam, nor
have I done this with the intention of betraying a military secret. The
truth of the matter is that my wife and children are living in Makkah
and I do not have my tribe to protect them there. I had written this
letter so that the leaders of Quraysh may be indebted to me and may
protect my wife and children out of gratitude." 'Umar rose and respect-
fully submitted: "O Prophet, please permit me to put this traitor to the
sword." The Prophet replied: "He is one of those people who had
participated in the Battle of Badr, and the explanation he has
advanced in his defence would seem to be correct."

Let us look at this decision of the Prophet in perspective. It was a


clear case of treachery and betrayal of military secrets. But the Prophet
acquitted Hatib on two counts. Firstly, that his past records were very
clean and showed that he could not have betrayed the cause of Islam,
since on the occasion of the Battle of Badr when there were heavy odds
against the Muslims, he had risked his life for them. Secondly, his
family was in fact in danger at Makkah. Therefore, if he had shown
some human weakness for his children and written this letter, then this
punishment was quite sufficient for him that his secret offence was
divulged in public and he had been disgraced and humiliated in the eyes
of the believers. God has referred to this offence of Hatib in the Holy
Quran but did not propose any punishment for him except rebuke
and admonition.

The attitude and activities of the Kharijis in the days of the


Caliph 'Ali are well-known to the students of Muslim history. They
used to abuse the Caliph openly, and threaten him with murder. But
whenever they were arrested for these offences, 'Ali would set them
free and tell his officers "As long as they do not actually perpetrate
offences against the State, the mere use of abusive language or the
threat of use of force are not such offences for which they can be
imprisoned." The imam Abu Hanifah has recorded the following saying
of the Caliph 'Ali (A): "As long as they do not set out on armed
rebellion, the Caliph of the Faithful will not interfere with them." On
another occasion 'Ali was delivering a lecture in the mosque when the
Kharijis raised their special slogan there. 'Ali said: "We will not deny
you the right to come to the mosques to worship God, nor will we stop
to give your share from the wealth of the State, as long as you are with
us (and support us in our wars with the unbelievers) and we shall never
take military action against you as long as you do not fight with us."
One can visualize the opposition which 'Ali was facing; more violent
and vituperative opposition cannot even be imagined in a present-day
democratic State; but the freedom that he had allowed to the opposi-
tion was such that no government has ever been able to give to its
opposition. He did not arrest even those who threatened him with
murder nor did he imprison them.
5. The Right to Protest Against Tyranny
Amongst the rights that Islam has conferred on human beings is
the right to protest against government's tyranny. Referring to it the
Quran says: "God does not love evil talk in public unless it is by some-
one who has been injured thereby" (4:148). This means that God
strongly disapproves of abusive language or strong words of condemna-
tion, but the person who has been the victim of injustice or tyranny,
God gives him the right to openly protest against the injury that has
been done to him. This right is not limited only to individuals. The
words of the verse are general. Therefore if an individual or a group of
people or a party usurps power, and after assuming the reins of
authority begins to tyrannize individuals or groups of men or the entire
population of the country, then to raise the voice of protest against it
openly is the God-given right of man and no one has the authority to
usurp or deny this right. If anyone tries to usurp this right of citizens
then he rebels against God. The talisman of Section 1444 may protect
such a tyrant in this world, but it cannot save him from the hell-fire in
the Hereafter.

6. Freedom of Expression
Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all
citizens of the Islamic State on the condition that it should be used
for the propagation of virtue and truth and not for spreading evil and
wickedness. This Islamic concept of freedom of expression is much
superior to the concept prevalent in the West. Under no circumstances
would Islam allow evil and wickedness to be propagated. It also does
not give anybody the right to use abusive or offensive language in the
name of criticism. The right to freedom of expression for the sake of
propagating virtue and righteousness is not only a right in Islam but an
obligation. One who tries to deny this right to his people is openly at
war with God, the All-Powerful. And the same thing applies to the
attempt to stop people from evil. Whether this evil is perpetrated by an
individual or by a group of people or the government of one's own
country, or the government of some other country; it is the right of a
Muslim and it is also his obligation that he should warn and reprimand
the evil-doer and try to stop him from doing it. Over and above, he
should openly and publicly condemn it and show the course of
righteousness which that individual, nation or government should
adopt.

The Holy Quran has described this quality of the Faithful in the
following words: "They enjoin what is proper and forbid what is
improper" (9:71). In contrast, describing the qualities of a hypocrite,
the Quran mentions: "They bid what is improper and forbid what is
proper" (9:67). The main purpose of an Islamic Government has been
defined by God in the Quran as follows: "If we give authority to these
men on earth they will keep up prayers, and offer poor-due, bid what
is proper and forbid what is improper" (22:41). The Prophet has said:
"If any one of you comes across an evil, he should try to stop it with
his hand (using force), if he is not in a position to stop it with his hand
then he should try to stop it by means of his tongue (meaning he
should speak against it). If he is not even able to use his tongue then he
should at least condemn it in his heart. This is the weakest degree of
faith" (Muslim). This obligation of inviting people to righteousness and
forbidding them to adopt the paths of evil is incumbent on all true
Muslims. If any government deprives its citizens of this right, and
prevents them from performing this duty, then it is in direct conflict
with the injunction of God. The government is not in conflict with its
people, but is in conflict with God. In this way it is at war with God
and is trying to usurp that right of its people which God has conferred
not only as a right but as an obligation. As far as the government which
itself propagates evil, wickedness and obscenity and interferes with
those who are inviting people to virtue and righteousness is concerned,
according to the Holy Quran it is the government of the hypocrites.

7. Freedom of Association
Islam has also given people the right to freedom of association and
formation of parties or organizations. This right is also subject to
certain general rules. It should be exercised for propagating virtue and
righteousness and should never be used for spreading evil and mischief.
We have not only been given this right for spreading righteousness and
virtue, but have been ordered to exercise this right. Addressing the
Muslims, the Holy Quran declares:

“You are the best community which has been brought forth for mankind. You
command what is proper and forbid what is improper and you believe in God ...
(3:110)”

This means that it is the obligation and duty of the entire Muslim
community that it should invite and enjoin people to righteousness and
virtue and forbid them from doing evil. If the entire Muslim community
is not able to perform this duty then "let there be a community among
you who will invite (people) to (do) good, command what is proper and
forbid what is improper, those will be prosperous" (3:104). This clearly
indicates that if the entire Muslim nation collectively begins to neglect
its obligation to invite people to goodness and forbid them from doing
evil then it is absolutely essential that it should contain at least a
group of people which may perform this obligation. As has been said before
this is not only a right but an obligation and on the fulfilment of which
depends success and prosperity here as well as in the Hereafter. It is an
irony with the religion of God that in a Muslim country the assembly
and association that is formed for the purposes of spreading evil and
mischief should have the right to rule over the country and the
association and party which has been formed for propagating righteous-
ness and virtue should live in perpetual fear of harassment and of being
declared illegal. Conditions here are just the reverse of what has been
prescribed by God. The claim is that we are Muslims and this is an
Islamic State5 but the work that is being done is directed to spreading
evil, to corrupt and morally degrade and debase the people while there
is an active and effective check on the work being carried out for
reforming society and inviting people to righteousness. Moreover the
life of those who are engaged in spreading righteousness and checking
the spread of evil and wickedness is made intolerable and hard to bear.

8. Freedom of Conscience and Conviction


Islam also gives the right to freedom of conscience and conviction
to its citizens in an Islamic State. The Holy Quran has laid down the
injunction: "There should be no coercion in the matter of faith"
(2:256). Though there is no truth and virtue greater than the religion of
Truth-Islam, and Muslims are enjoined to invite people to embrace
Islam and advance arguments in favour of it, they are not asked to
enforce this faith on them. No force will be applied in order to compel
them to accept Islam. Whoever accepts it he does so by his own choice.
Muslims will welcome such a convert to Islam with open arms and
admit him to their community with equal rights and privileges. But if
somebody does not accept Islam, Muslims will have to recognize and
respect his decision, and no moral, social or political pressure will be
put on him to change his mind.

9. Protection of Religious Sentiments


Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience,
Islam has given the right to the individual that his religious sentiments
will be given due respect and nothing will be said or done which may
encroach upon this right. It has been ordained by God in the Holy
Quran: "Do not abuse those they appeal to instead of God" (6:108).
These instructions are not only limited to idols and deities, but they
also apply to the leaders or national heroes of the people. If a group of
people holds a conviction which according to you is wrong, and holds
certain persons in high esteem which according to you is not deserved
by them, then it will not be justified in Islam that you use abusive
language for them and thus injure their feelings. Islam does not prohibit
people from holding debate and discussion on religious matters, but it
wants that these discussions should be conducted in decency. "Do not
argue with the people of the Book unless it is in the politest manner"
(29:46)-says the Quran. This order is not merely limited to the people
of the Scriptures, but applies with equal force to those following other
faiths.

10. Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment


Islam also recognizes the right of the individual that he will not be
arrested or imprisoned for the offences of others. The Holy Quran has
laid down this principle clearly: "No bearer of burdens shall be made to
bear the burden of another" (6:164). Islam believes in personal
responsibility. We ourselves are responsible for our acts, and the
consequence of our actions cannot be transferred to someone else. In
other words this means that every man is responsible for his actions. If
another man has not shared this action then he cannot be held
responsible for it, nor can he be arrested. It is a matter of great regret
and shame that we are seeing this just and equitable principle which has
not been framed by any human being, but by the Creator and Nourish-
er of the entire universe, being flouted and violated before our eyes. So
much so that a man is guilty of a crime or he is a suspect, but his wife
being arrested for his crime. Things have gone so far that innocent
people are being punished for the crimes of others. To give a recent
example, in Karachi (Pakistan), a man was suspected of being involved
in a bomb throwing incident. In the course of police investigation he
was subjected to horrible torture in order to extract a confession from
him. When he insisted on his innocence, then the police arrested his
mother, his wife, daughter and sister and brought them to the police
station. They were all stripped naked in his presence and he was
stripped naked of all his clothes before their eyes so that a confession
of the crime could be extracted from him. It appears as if for the sake
of investigation of crime it has become proper and legal in our country
to strip the innocent women folk of the household in order to bring
pressure on the suspect. This is indeed very outrageous and shameful.
This is the height of meanness and depravity. This is not a mere hearsay
which I am repeating here, but I have full information about this case
and can prove my allegations in any court of law. I would here like to
ask what right such tyrants who perpetrate these crimes against
mankind have to tell us that they are Muslims or that they are conduct-
ing the affairs of the state according to the teachings of Islam and their
state is an Islamic State. They are breaching and flouting a clear law of
the Holy Quran. They are stripping men and women naked which is
strictly forbidden in Islam. They disgrace and humiliate humanity and
then they claim that they are Muslims.

11. The Right to Basic Necessities of Life


Islam has recognized the right of the needy people that help and
assistance will be provided for them. "And in their wealth there is
acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute" (51:19). In this
verse, the Quran has not only conferred a right on every man who asks
for assistance in the wealth of the Muslims, but has also laid down that
if a Muslim comes to know that a certain man is without the basic
necessities of life, then irrespective of the fact whether he asks for
assistance or not, it is his duty to reach him and give all the help that
he can extend. For this purpose Islam has not depended only on the help
and charity that is given voluntarily, but has made compulsory charity,
zakat as the third pillar of Islam, next only to profession of faith and
worship of God through holding regular prayers. The Prophet has
clearly instructed in this respect that: "It will be taken from their rich
and given to those in the community in need" (al-Bukhari and Muslim).
In addition to this, it has also been declared that the Islamic State
should support those who have nobody to support them. The Prophet
has said: "The Head of state is the guardian of him, who has nobody to
support him" (Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi). The word wali which has been
used by the Prophet is a very comprehensive word and has a wide range
of meanings. If there is an orphan or an aged man, if there is a crippled
or unemployed person, if one is invalid or poor and has no one else to
support him or help him, then it is the duty and the responsibility of
the state to support and assist him. If a dead man has no guardian or
heir, then it is the duty of the state to arrange for his proper burial. In
short the state has been entrusted with the duty and responsibility of
looking after all those who need help and assistance. A truly Islamic
State is therefore a truly welfare state which will be the guardian and
protector of all those in need.

12. Equality Before Law


Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality
in the eyes of the law. As far as the Muslims are concerned, there are
clear instructions in the Holy Quran and hadith that in their rights and
obligations they are all equal: "The believers are brothers (to each
other)" (49:10). "If they (disbelievers) repent and keep up prayer and
pay the Ipoor-due, they are your brothers in faith" (9:11). The
Prophet has said that: "The life and blood of Muslims are equally
precious" (Abu Dawud; Ibn Majjah). In another hadith he has said:
"The protection given by all Muslims is equal. Even an ordinary man
of them can grant protection to any man" (al-Bukhari; Muslim; Abu
Dawud). In another more detailed Tradition of the Prophet, it has been
said that those who accept the Oneness of God, believe in the Prophet-
hood of His Messenger, give up primitive prejudices and join the Muslim
community and brotherhood, "then they have the same rights and
obligations as other Muslims have" (al-Bukhari; al-Nisa'i). Thus there is
absolute equality between the new converts to Islam and the old
followers of the Faith.

This religious brotherhood and the uniformity of their rights and


obligations is the foundation of equality in Islamic society, in which the
rights and obligations of any person are neither greater nor lesser in any
way than the rights and obligations of other people. As far as the non-
Muslim citizens of the Islamic State are concerned, the rule of Islamic
Shari'ah (law) about them has been very well expressed by the Caliph
'Ali in these words: "They have accepted our protection only because
their lives may be like our lives and their properties like our properties"
(Abu Dawud). In other words, their (of the dhimmis) lives and
properties are as sacred as the lives and properties of the Muslims.
Discrimination of people into different classes was one of the greatest
crimes that, according to the Quran, Pharaoh used to indulge in: "He
had divided his people into different classes," ... "And he suppressed
one group of them (at the cost of others)" (28:4).

13. Rulers Not Above the Law


Islam clearly insists and demands that all officials of the Islamic
State, whether he be the head or an ordinary employee, are equal in
the eyes of the law. None of them is above the law or can claim
immunity. Even an ordinary citizen in Islam has the right to put
forward a claim or file a legal complaint against the highest executive of
the country. The Caliph 'Umar said, "I have myself seen the Prophet,
may God's blessings be on him, taking revenge against himself
(penalizing himself for some shortcoming or failing)." On the occasion
of the Battle of Badr, when the Prophet was straightening the rows of
the Muslim army he hit the belly of a soldier in an attempt to push him
back in line. The soldier complained "O Prophet, you have hurt me
with your stick." The Prophet immediately bared his belly and said: "I
am very sorry, you can revenge by doing the same to me." The soldier
came forward and kissed the abdomen of the Prophet and said that this
was all that he wanted.

A woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in


connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet, and
it was recommended that she may be spared the punishment of theft.
The Prophet replied: "The nations that lived before you were destroyed
by God because they punished the common men for their offences and
let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes; I swear by Him
(God) who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatimah, the daughter
of Muhammad, has committed this crime then I would have amputated
her hand." During the caliphate of 'Umar, Muhammad the son of 'Amr
ibn al-'As the Governor of Egypt, whipped an Egyptian. The Egyptian
went to Medina and lodged his complaint with the Righteous Caliph,
who immediately summoned the Governor and his son to Medina.
When they appeared before him in Medina, the Caliph handed a whip to
the Egyptian complainant and asked him to whip the son of the
Governor in his presence. After taking his revenge when the Egyptian
was about to hand over the whip to 'Umar, he said to the Egyptian:
"Give one stroke of the whip to the Honourable Governor as well. His
son would certainly have not beaten you were it not for the false pride
that he had in his father's high office." The plaintiff submitted: "The
person who had beaten me, I have already avenged myself on him."
'Umar said: "By God, if you had beaten him (the Governor) I would
not have checked you from doing so. You have spared him of your own
free will." Then he ('Umar) angrily turned to 'Amr ibn al-'As and said:
"O 'Amr, when did you start to enslave the people, though they were
born free of their mothers?" When the Islamic State was flourishing in
its pristine glory and splendour, the common people could equally
lodge complaints against the caliph of the time in the court and the
caliph had to appear before the qadi to answer the charges. And if the
caliph had any complaint against any citizen, he could not use his
administrative powers and authority to set the matter right, but had to
refer the case to the court of law for proper adjudication.

14. The Right to Avoid Sin


Islam also confers this right on every citizen that he will not be
ordered to commit a sin, a crime or an offence; and if any govern-
ment, or the administrator, or the head of department orders an
individual to do a wrong, then he has the right to refuse to comply with
the order. His refusal to carry out such crime or unjust instructions
would not be regarded as an offence in the eyes of the Islamic law. On
the contrary giving orders to one's subordinates to commit a sin or do a
wrong is itself an offence and such a serious offence that the officer
who gives this sinful order whatever his rank and position may be, is
liable to be summarily dismissed. These clear instructions of the Prophet
are summarized in the following hadith: "It is not permissible to dis-
obey God in obedience to the orders of any human being" (Musnad of
Ibn Hanbal). In other words, no one has the right to order his
subordinates to do anything against the laws of God. If such an order
is given, the subordinate has the right to ignore it or openly refuse to
carry out such instructions. According to this rule no offender will be
able to prove his innocence or escape punishment by saying that this
offence was committed on the orders of the government or superior
officers. If such a situation arises then the person who commits the
offence and the person who orders that such an offence be committed,
will both be liable to face criminal proceedings against them. And if an
officer takes any improper and unjust measures against a subordinate
who refuses to carry out illegal orders, then the subordinate has the
right to go to the court of law for the protection of his rights, and he
can demand that the officer be punished for his wrong or unjust orders.

15. The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State


According to Islam, governments in this world are actually
representatives (khulafa') of the Creator of the universe, and this
responsibility is not entrusted to any individual or family or a particular
class or group of people but to the entire Muslim nation. The Holy
Quran says: "God has promised to appoint those of you who believe
and do good deeds as (His) representatives on earth" (24:55). This
clearly indicates that khilafah is a collective gift of God in which the
right of every individual Muslim is neither more nor less than the right
of any other person. The correct method recommended by the Holy
Quran for running the affairs of the state is as follows: "And their
business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves"
(42:38). According to this principle it is the right of every Muslim that
either he should have a direct say in the affairs of the state or a
representative chosen by him and other Muslims should participate in
the consultation of the state. Islam, under no circumstance, permits or
tolerates that an individual or a group or party of individuals may
deprive the common Muslims of their rights, and usurp powers of the
state. Similarly, Islam does not regard it right and proper that an
individual may put up a false show of setting up a legislative assembly
and by means of underhand tactics such as fraud, persecution, bribery,
etc., gets himself and men of his choice elected in the assembly. This is
not only a treachery against the people whose rights are usurped by
illegal and unfair means, but against the Creator Who has entrusted the
Muslims to rule on this earth on His behalf, and has prescribed the pro-
cedure of an assembly for exercising these powers. The shura or the
legislative assembly has no other meaning except that:

(1) The executive head of the government and the members of the
assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the
people.

(2) The people and their representatives should have the right to
criticize and freely express their opinions.

(3) The real conditions of the country should be brought before the people
without suppressing any fact so that they may be able to form their opinion
about whether the government is working properly or not.

(4) There should be adequate guarantee that only those people who have the
support of the masses should rule over the country and those who fail to win
this support should be removed from their position of authority.

CHAPTER FOUR
RIGHTS OF ENEMIES AT WAR
After dealing with the rights of the citizens of an Islamic State, I
would like to briefly discuss the rights which Islam has conferred on its
enemies. In the days when Islam came into focus the world was
completely unaware of the concept of humane and decent rules of war.
The West became conscious of this concept for the first time through
the works of the seventeenth century thinker, Grotius. But the actual
codification of the 'international law' in war began in the middle of the
nineteenth century. Prior to this no concept of civilized behaviour in
war was found in the West. All forms of barbarity and savagery were
perpetrated in war, and the rights of those at war were not even
recognized, let alone respected. The laws which were framed in this
field during the nineteenth century or over the following period up to
the present day, cannot be called 'laws' in the real sense of the word.
They are only in the nature of conventions and agreements and calling
them 'international law' is actually a kind of misnomer, because no
nation regards them binding when they are at war, unless, of course,
when the adversaries also agree to abide by them. In other words, these
civilized laws imply that if our enemies respect them then we shall also
abide by them, and if they ignore these human conventions and take
recourse to barbaric and cruel ways of waging war, then we shall also
adopt the same or similar techniques. It is obvious that such a course
which depends on mutual acceptance and agreement cannot be called
'law'. And this is the reason why the provisions of this so-called 'inter-
national law' have been flouted and ignored in every way, and every
time they have been revised, additions or deletions have been made in
them.

Law of War and Peace in Islam:


The rules which have been framed by Islam to make war civilized
and humane, are in the nature of law, because they are the injunctions
of God and His Prophet which are followed by Muslims in all circum-
stances, irrespective of the behaviour of the enemy. It is now for the
scholars to find out how far the West has availed of the laws of war
given by Islam thirteen hundred years ago; and even after the adapta-
tion of some of the laws of Islam how far the West attained those
heights of civilized and humane methods of warfare which Muslims
reached through the blessings of Islam. Western writers have often
asserted that the Prophet had borrowed everything in his teachings
from the Jews and the Christians. Instead of saying anything in its
refutation I will only recommend the reader to refer to the Bible6 so
that he can see which methods of war are recommended by the sacred
Book of these Western claimants to civilization and culture.

We have examined in some detail the basic human rights that Islam
has conferred on man. Let us now find out what rights and obligations
Islam recognizes for an enemy.

The Rights of the Non-Combatants:


Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction between the
combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as
the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children,
the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet are as
follows: "Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman" (Abu
Dawud). "Do not kill the monks in monasteries" or "Do not kill the
people who are sitting in places of worship" (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal).

During a war, the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman lying on the
ground and observed: "She was not fighting. How then she came to be
killed?" From this statement of the Prophet the exegetists and jurists
have drawn the principle that those who are non-combatants should not
be killed during or after the war.

The Rights of the Combatants:


Now let us see what rights Islam has conferred on the combatants.

1. Torture with Fire


In the hadith there is a saying of the Prophet that: "Punishment by
fire does not behove anyone except the Master of the Fire" (Abu
Dawud). The injunction deduced from this saying is that the adversary
should not be burnt alive.

2. Protection of the Wounded


"Do not attack a wounded person" - thus said the Prophet. This
means that the wounded soldiers who are not fit to fight, nor actually fighting,
should not be attacked.

3. The Prisoner of War Should not be Slain


"No prisoner should be put to the sword" - a very clear and
unequivocal instruction given by the Prophet (S).

4. No one Should be Tied to be Killed


"The Prophet has prohibited the killing of anyone who is tied or
is in captivity."

5. No Looting and Destruction in the Enemy's


Country
Muslims have also been instructed by the Prophet that if they
should enter the enemy's territory, they should not indulge in pillage or
plunder nor destroy the residential areas, nor touch the property of
anyone except those who are fighting with them. It has been narrated
in the hadith: "The Prophet has prohibited the believers from loot and
plunder" (al-Bukhari; Abu Dawud). His injunction is: "The loot is no
more lawful than the carrion" (Abu Dawud). Abu Bakr al-Siddiq used
to instruct the soldiers while sending them to war, "Do not destroy the
villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and
do not slaughter the cattle." The booty of war which is acquired from
the battleground is altogether different from this. It consists of the
wealth, provisions and equipment captured only from the camps and
military headquarters of the combatant armies.
6. Sanctity of Property
The Muslims have also been prohibited from taking anything from
the general public of a conquered country without paying for it. If in a
war the Muslim army occupies an area of the enemy country, and is
encamped there, it does not have the right to use the things belonging
to the people without their consent. If they need anything, they should
purchase it from the local population or should obtain permission from
the owners. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, while instructing the Muslim armies
being despatched to the battlefront would go to the extent of saying
that Muslim soldiers should not even use the milk of the milch cattle
without the permission of their owners.

7. Sanctity of a Dead Body


Islam has categorically prohibited its followers from disgracing or
mutilating the corpses of their enemies as was practised in Arabia
before the advent of Islam. It has been said in the hadith: "The Prophet
has prohibited us from mutilating the corpses of the enemies" (al-
Bukhari; AbC Dawud). The occasion on which this order was given is
highly instructive. In the Battle of Uhud the disbelievers mutilated the
bodies of the Muslims, who had fallen on the battlefield and sacrificed
their lives for the sake of Islam, by cutting off their ears and noses, and
threading them together to put round their necks as trophies of war.
The abdomen of Hamzah, the uncle of the Prophet, was ripped open by
Quraysh, his liver was taken out and chewed by Hind, the wife of Abu
Sufyan, the leader of the Meccan army. The Muslims were naturally
enraged by this horrible sight. But the Prophet asked his followers not
to mete out similar treatment to the dead bodies of the enemies. This
great example of forbearance and restraint is sufficient to convince any
reasonable man who is not blinded by prejudice or bias, that Islam is
really the religion sent down by the Creator of the universe, and that if
human emotions had any admission in Islam, then this horrible sight on
the battlefield of Uhud would have provoked the Prophet to order his
followers to mutilate the bodies of their enemy in the same manner.

8. Return of Corpses of the Enemy


In the Battle of Ahzab a very renowned and redoubtable warrior
of the enemy was killed and his body fell down in the trench which the
Muslims had dug for the defence of Medina. The unbelievers presented
ten thousand dinars to the Prophet and requested that the dead body of
their fallen warrior may be handed over to them. The Prophet replied
"I do not sell dead bodies. You can take away the corpse of your fallen
comrade."
9. Prohibition of Breach of Treaties
Islam has strictly prohibited treachery. One of the instructions
that the Prophet used to give to the Muslim warriors while sending
them to the battlefront was: "Do not be guilty of breach of faith."
This order has been repeated in the Holy Quran and the hadith again
and again, that if the enemy acts treacherously let him do so, you
should never go back on your promise. There is a famous incident in
the peace treaty of Hudaybiyyah, when after the settlement of the
terms of the treaty, Abu Jandal, the son of the emissary of the
unbelievers who had negotiated this treaty with the Muslims, came,
fettered and blood-stained, rushing to the Muslim camp and crying for
help. The Prophet told him "Since the terms of the treaty have been
settled, we are not in a position to help you out. You should go back
with your father. God will provide you with some other opportunity to
escape this persecution." The entire Muslim army was deeply touched
and grieved at the sad plight of Abu Jandal and many of them were
moved to tears. But when the Prophet declared that "We cannot break
the agreement", not even a single person came forward to help the
unfortunate prisoner, so the unbelievers forcibly dragged him back to
Makkah. This is an unparalleled example of the observance of the terms
of agreement by the Muslims, and Islamic history can show many
examples of a similar nature.

10. Rules About Declaration of War


It has been laid down in the Holy Quran: "If you apprehend
breach of treaty from a people, then openly throw the treaty at their
faces" (8:58). In this verse, Muslims have been prohibited from opening
hostilities against their enemies without properly declaring war against
them, unless of course, the adversary has already started aggression
against them. Otherwise the Quran has clearly given the injunction to
Muslims that they should intimate to their enemies that no treaty exists
between them, and they are at war with them. The present day 'inter-
national law' has also laid down that hostilities should not be started
without declaration of war, but since it is a man-made rule, they are
free to violate it whenever it is convenient. On the other hand, the laws
for Muslims have been framed by God, hence they cannot be violated.

Conclusion:
This is a brief sketch of those rights which fourteen hundred years
ago Islam gave to man, to those who were at war with each other and to
the citizens of its state, which every believer regards as sacred as law.
On the one hand, it refreshes and strengthens our faith in Islam when
we realize that even in this modern age which makes such loud claims
of progress and enlightenment, the world has not been able to produce
juster and more equitable laws than those given 1400 years ago. On the
other hand it hurts one's feelings that Muslims are in possession of such
a splendid and comprehensive system of law and yet they look forward
for guidance to those leaders of the West who could not have dreamed
of attaining those heights of truth and justice which was achieved a long
time ago. Even more painful than this is the realization that throughout
the world the rulers who claim to be Muslims have made disobedience
to their God and the Prophet as the basis and foundation of their
government. May God have mercy on them and give them the true
guidance.

Reference:

HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM

'Allamah Abu al-'A'la Mawdudi al Tawhid Journal, vol. IV No. 3 Rajab-


Ramadhan 1407